71% of small and medium-sized business leaders now feel better off than they were a year ago, according to a new study from Verizon Business.
According to a new study, small businesses rely heavily on technology such as high-speed internet, which 77% believe has been critical to sustaining connectivity since the start of the pandemic.
Small businesses face similar challenges to their larger counterparts: filling open positions (60%), offering employees flexible schedules (88%) and digitizing as their technology adoption increases (63%), according to the Research on prospects and technology adoption for small and medium-sized businesses by Verizon Business.
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One of the most striking findings was that 71% of SME decision makers now consider themselves in a better position than they were a year ago. They view technology as an important ally to help them overcome lingering challenges to improve sales, drive talent acquisition, and address rising inflation and supply chain issues.
SMB owners are now also tackling mental health issues, with 65% of respondents saying they started or expanded their offering of mental health and wellness programs during the pandemic.
Still, the picture isn’t entirely rosy: 57% said they’ve experienced declining sales in the past year and 69% higher costs. In addition, 61% of respondents reported difficulties in sourcing materials due to the ongoing global supply chain crisis.
However, the overall message of the study is that they are making progress.
“In general, these decision-makers are looking for new avenues to expand their businesses and maximize their use of new technologies to solve challenges and drive growth,” the Verizon report said. “With access to a variety of solutions, there is renewed optimism and investment in growth as the pandemic recovery is in full swing.”
The study also found that SMEs:
- Switched to digital operations† 63% of respondents have added or transferred digital and online activities in the past year.
- Technology integrated into hiring and retention practices† 59% have provided employees with devices or technology to recruit or retain talent in the past year.
- More turnover through digital transformation† 65% said the revenue their business generates through digital operations is now higher than it was before the pandemic.
- Added technical benefits to fight the labor shortage† When it comes to operational impact, nearly two in three respondents’ decision makers said their company has implemented new remote collaboration systems (65%) or security (64%) or started offering new products and services to adapt to changing customer needs (65%).
Investing for growth
SMEs are optimistic about their recovery and growth. The study found that:
- 61% said they expect their company’s financial security to improve in the coming months.
- 63% said they expect that it will be easier to provide goods or services a year from now than it is today, and 64% believe the same for acquiring products.
- 42% said they have addressed supply chain disruptions by stockpiling goods, while 38% are implementing continuity planning.
Technology drives flexibility and the future of work
In addition to how SMBs use technology to drive growth, the changes in employee needs are an important consideration in determining both their current and future workplaces. As with many large companies, the forced changes have produced some unexpected benefits.
- Nearly 40% of decision-makers said they added net new remote or flexible working hours during the pandemic, and 79% offer or plan to provide incentives to attract and retain employees.
- 62% said they transferred employees from on-site to remote in the past year, while 52% moved from remote back to the office.
- Half of those surveyed said they’ve hired remote workers for remote work in the past year, and 73% think it’s important to provide a stipend for internet services at home.
- As a result of these changes, 56% said employee morale and 62% collaboration were higher compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Free Small Business Resources
To help small businesses with their digitalization, Verizon recently launched the: Verizon Small Business Digital Ready curriculum. Developed in collaboration with small business owners, this online portal is open to any business for free.
The company said the portal offers a personalized experience, offering resources, networking and coaching tailored to the specific needs of an SMB.